5 March 2002

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Overrules Supreme Court on Electoral Law

Washington, DC — Election laws thrown out a week ago by Zimbabwe's Supreme Court have been reinstated by President Robert Mugabe. In the official Government Gazette,Tuesday, Mugabe said the laws "shall be deemed to have been lawfully" adopted.

The Supreme Court had found that the act was improperly pushed through Parliament and violated constitutional and voters' rights by giving sweeping powers to state electoral officials and imposing restrictions on election observers and party polling agents. An amendment had given the state sole power to appoint local election monitors.

Mugabe's order restores the ban on absentee voting by the estimated 500,000 Zimbabweans living abroad. Opponents of the Mugabe government plan to appeal but it is highly unlikely that a decision will be reached before elections this weekend.

Mugabe's opponents accuse him of trying to rig the upcoming vote and if he wins, they say, violence and intimidation will have played a key role in his victory.

The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report released this week declared: "[Zimbabwe's] political process remained heavily tilted in favor of the ruling party, and widespread irregularities, fraud, and intimidation marred the parliamentary by-elections held during the year."

On state radio, Tuesday, Mugabe said that complacency had caused the ruling Zanu-Pf to lose ground to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). "But we are wide awake now," the President said, predicting a win this weekend, despite facing the toughest challenge to his power since independence in 1980. "We won't let the [MDC] win."


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